Terror alertU.S again under threat

Published 9 September 2011

New York City and the District of Columbia respond to “specific, credible but unconfirmed” intelligence of an impending attack; information obtained indicates a vehicle-borne bomb; NYPD deploys boats, armored vehicles and a 1,000-member counter-terror force

As the nation prepares to commemorate the tenth anniversary of 9/11, New York City and Washington, D.C. again find themselves responding to an al Qaeda attack threat.

Federal authorities have advised local officials of a “specific, credible but unconfirmed threat” to the cities centered around the commemoration of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.

The intelligence community has developed a “general description”of two or three individuals who may already be in the country. Making the effort more difficult is that the individuals in question have common names.

That intelligence came from the tribal region of Pakistan, from a source acknowledged as having a reliable record by U.S. intelligence officials.

It is believed that the attackers originated their journey in Afghanistan, with a possible third-country waypoint. That third country may have been Iran.

In the language of counter-terror officials, “specific” means that there is information of the type of attack that may occur. In this case, the information indicated that a vehicle-borne explosive device, a car- or truck-bomb, was the chosen method.

Last night, official focus was on two missing rental trucks, from different rental agencies in the Kansas City, Kansas area. They were later found and determined to be unconnected with the present threat.

“Credible” is used to indicate that the source of the information is believable, comes from a reliable, knowledgeable source. U.S. signals intelligence has been listening in on the communications of one particular al Qaeda source in Pakistan, from whom officials have gleaned confirmed information in the past. 

Also supporting the credibility of the intelligence is an increase in “chatter” on the communication channels that are known to be used by al Qaeda operatives.

In the trove of documents gathered from Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abottabad, Pakistan, during the raid that killed him, bin Laden showed a predilection for attacking the United States on significant dates and anniversaries, such as the upcoming 9/11 commemorations.

What has not yet been uncovered is the type of corroboration that would provide confirmation indicating that the plot is active and in progress.

New York City wasted no time in responding to the threat notification.

All bridges and tunnels entering Manhattan have been staffed with additional police and national guard personnel. Cars and trucks entering the city are being searched. Additionally, there have been checkpoints set up at various locations in Manhattan, such as Times Square and Lower Manhattan, approaching the financial district.

Key rail and subway stations operated by the Metropolitan Transit Authority, Port Authority of NY and NJ and NJ Transit have been staffed with additional officers accompanied by national guard troops, watching traffic outside stations and randomly searching backpacks and baggage inside.

New York City’s response has been thorough. Besides police officers at the bridges, tunnels and rail stations, the city has deployed radiation-detecting boats, cameras have been placed throughout midtown and lower Manhattan. If required, the NYPD has a small, unmanned submersible craft available to search the hulls of ships and boats.

Also deployed or on standby, is an “army” of 1,000 anti-terror officers, armored vehicles and weapons and EOD (explosive ordinance disposal) specialists.